Something to Push Off of

According to legend, the Buddha used to illustrate his teaching method by holding a small bird in his hand. To take off and fly, a bird has to push off with its legs. The Buddha would keep the bird from flying away by dropping his hand as the bird pushed off, so that the bird didn’t have enough resistance to jump.

Martha Beck

I grew up in an alcoholic home, and I’ve discovered through recovery some of the more common patterns that emerge for people in the orbit of addiction.  We all know that the addict is busy numbing their feelings and pain.  But what happens to the people around the addict?  In my experience, they busy themselves with trying to bring control to a chaotic situation.  They try to manage the addict, and try to get them to stop doing what they’re doing.  The people around the addict try with all their might to believe that they are in control; that there is something that they can do that will make the addict change.  It’s a losing game.

My personal trajectory of growth and change began when I was given the gift of desperation; or perhaps, more accurately, when I was ready to receive it.  This gift was given to me while I was busy numbing out my feelings in different ways – through TV, food, wine, willful ignorance, working too hard, and/or hustling to fulfill societal norms and stories.   But then I just woke up one day in August 2015, and I could not do it for one more minute.  At the time, I was terrified, because I was not in control and it just felt like something was very, very wrong.  But in hindsight, I see that the shift that had really happened that day, was that I finally decided to listen to myself.  Something WAS wrong, and I knew it. 

What I started to be able to see that day, was that I could no longer be under the illusion that I was in control of everything.  As I worked to understand the family patterns of addiction, I learned that it was a losing proposition to continue taking on all the responsibility;  it would no longer serve me to think that if I just took care of everything, that the under-functioning people in my life would finally change and step up to the plate to do their part.  I had to accept that they were going to just keep being who they are, and that the only thing I could control was how I reacted to it. 

What an amazing gift.  It is called the gift of desperation because it gives you something to push off of.  I could have easily gone on for years this way;  but instead, pushed off and took flight.

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